Budapest: Come Hungary, Leave Happy

A part of me thought before sitting down to write this post that I should just forget about it, move on to my posts about London, and then Berlin, but then I felt like I owed it to Budapest to share my experiences in the city. So here it is, way overdue. On an unrelated note, let me start off this post with the biggest news of the past month. My sister Susan is now engaged to Nat Kinsky, and we are all extremely happy to have Nat be part of the family. I’m sure this would be much more groundbreaking news if I had published this post weeks ago, but better late than never, as I sometimes say.Image 

Anyways I had a great time in Budapest, and this being my first time outside the Czech Republic since I arrived, it was great seeing another country of Europe. I was a little apprehensive about my first stay in a hostel, and although I never saw the movie Hostel, I assume it takes place in a hostel somewhere in Eastern Europe, and I don’t think things turned out too well for those guests.

Because of a good recommendation, we stayed at the Retox Party Hostel, whose tagline is “if you don’t understand the name, you probably shouldn’t stay here.” On their website they show walls covered in graffiti and say they are located in what seems like an abandoned concrete building. They also state that if you want somewhere clean and pleasant, you should go somewhere else (because who wants that?!). But no worries, the hostel was far less sketchy than I expected, and I would definitely recommend it to any students looking for somewhere cheap to stay in Budapest.

We got in pretty late, so all we really had time to do was put down our stuff and start partying. Similar to Prague, the nightlife in Budapest is really happening. The first night we went to a nearby bar that had karaoke in both English and Hungarian (I’m proud to say I sang “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias, and had all the ladies swooning).

The next morning after a fun night of karaoke several of us toured Europe’s largest synagogue, the name of which I currently cannot recall (I guess that happens after not blogging for a month). The synagogue was absolutely beautiful, and reminded me in many ways of a Catholic Church. Our tour guide was led by a man from New York with a thick Brooklyn accent. I remembered that under my jacket I had on one of my two Brooklyn shirts, which I was thrilled to show him. He seemed less amused, for some reason.

An interesting fact I learned during my tour of the synagogue was that during World War II this became the personal office of Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi who played a large part in the Holocaust. It made my skin crawl to realize this place of prayer was used to plan the murder of millions of people. 

The rest of the day was spent seeing more of the city, including walking across the Danube, which is just as blue as you’d think it would be, and taking the tram up to see the Castle and several other historic sites on the Buda Side. There was a fantastic view from atop the hill where I could see all of the Pest side of the city, including the Hungarian Parliament Building pictured above, one of my favorite buildings in Europe.

A few members of the group decided that they would walk back to our hostel, while four of us decided to be lazy and take the bus. Unfortunately, we paid for our laziness. Literally. After a few people in our group spoke loudly about how they didn’t have bus tickets (never a good idea), the man behind us showed us his badge and asked us to get off the bus. There he told us that the fine for not having purchased a ticket is $80 (or like hundreds of thousands in hungarian money). Luckily, we were able to talk him down to $40, but I definitely learned my lesson the hard way about breaking the rules. More importantly, if you do break the rules, at least be subtle about it.

That night we went to a giant club called Morrison’s 2, which we found after roaming around the city for like over an hour. Describing a club we went to reminds me of those SNL skits featuring Stefan (If you haven’t seen these Youtube them immediately! Cause if you don’t, this next paragraph will seem like nonsense to you. Which it is). 

“So what would you recommend a family of four do looking for a fun weekend in Budapest?”

“Budapest’s hottest club is Morrison’s 2! This club has everything! Broken glass,  Smurfs, Hungarians in banana costumes, peasant women selling flowers, and old ladies with librarian glasses….

The last day there we walked around more of the city, went to a market that was definitely cool but definitely not worth the walk, and went to a museum called “House of Terror.” This museum documented the destruction caused in the last centuries by both the Nazis and Soviets. I realize it probably seems like everything I do or mention has to do with these two groups, but in this region of the world the terrors of living under oppressive regimes are not very far off in the past. Coincidentally we were there for the ten year anniversary of this museum, so there was a ceremony and outdoor festival commemorating this place. All the speeches were in Hungarian, which was unfortunate for me since my Hungarian is a little bit rusty. More importantly for us, however, the ten year anniversary meant free admission. At first I had no idea what was going on in this museum but gradually I got into it and really started to enjoy some of the exhibits I saw. Also, I got into a 5-minute conversation with a man who I believe was reminiscing about life under Stalin to me in Hungarian, which I responded to with many head nods and smiles. 

Afterwards was the spas, where I fully expecting to see hundreds of overweight speedo wearers lounging in the pool. And I was right….for the most part. There were certainly many speedo wearers in the crowd (one of my roommates included, I guess he just wanted to fit in), but regular swim suits were just as common. The main pool is surrounded on all sides by a grand yellow building, and housed in this building is a variety of thermal pools, saunas, and steam rooms. I made it through most of the building but parts of it were apparently filled with sulfur and smelled awful, so I didn’t make it all the way through. Anyways, this was a great opportunity to kick back and relax after a long day of trudging around the city.

That last night in Budapest we went out on a pub crawl, which I don’t remember much of (because this happened such a long time ago!), but I believe it was pretty fun. The next morning we were back on a bus to Prague and I left tired but glad I had experienced a weekend in Budapest. It was great to get out of Prague for awhile, and although I definitely had a great time while in Hungary I wasn’t itching to get back in quite the same way as when I left London. 

My only major complaint had to do with some of our restaurant experiences. While I enjoyed most of the meals I had there, one phenomenon which I hope never catches on in the United States is the idea that restaurants can let their food get cold, then throw it in the microwave as you order. Not trying to be a food diva here, but I can microwave food on my own, so why would I pay you to do that for me? I refused to eat at either of the places that threw their food into the microwave. A few weeks later in Berlin, while I was riding a bike around town, I felt hungrier than I had felt in a long time. So I stopped at the first place I saw, a little sandwich shop. Once again, the pasta was thrown into the microwave, but at this point I was too hungry to care. After the first bite, I was starting to think maybe I was overreacting about this whole “microwave” issue. After a few more bites, as my hunger slowly began to subside, I started to think this wasn’t exactly great pasta, but decent enough. A few bites later, it hit me: this was the worst pasta I’ve ever had in my life. Simply terrible. So looking back on Budapest, I’m glad I didn’t eat any of the microwaved food and I will continue to not order anything from a restaurant that is cooked in the microwave. 

Well, sorry for the long, long, long delay. I should get some more posts out this week, including my trips to London and Berlin. I might even throw in a bonus post if I have the time.